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Brandon Wright keeps score at ITI's IDPA 2.0 training

“You wouldn’t want to do that on the street,” my classmate pronounced. True dat. Standing at bad breath distance from concealment limits your maneuverability and, thus, options for escape.”This isn’t real life,” Brandon Wright countered, resetting a swinging target for the next shooter. “This is a game.” Brandon Wright should know. He’s an International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) Distinguished Master and Team Captain for International Training, Inc. Question: could the SWAT-guy-turned-Firearms Instructor teach a complete newbie les regle du jeu to avoid complete embarrassment at an IDPA competition? I’m thinking no. But I did learn three important lessons at ITI . . .

1. 80 percent is 100 percent

To say I shot like crap during my one-day IDPA .20 course would be like saying Tori Nonaka is a not an entirely unattractive (nor unsuccessful) IDPA competitor. In other words, I couldn’t hit squat and Glock’s teen sensation is the best thing to hit competitive shooting since Michelle Viscusi. Yes I know: Ms. Tonaka predates Ms. Viscusi as a Team Glock shooter. Anyway . . .

OFWGs and OTWGs at ITI IDPA 2.0 training (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

Whether or not you buy the lame excuse explanation for my general inability to hit what I was aiming at during my Grand Day Out [see: below], Brandon made one thing abundantly clear to the assortment of OFWGs and OTWGs assembled in Virginia for his sage advice: the faster you shoot the more you miss. “You’ve got to find that balance between speed and accuracy,” Brandon said. D’uh, you say. But hearing that buzzer, shooting like a demon and not seeing holes “in the zero” (middle of the target) is believing.

I don’t think my classmate Wayne will mind me saying that his first run of the day [above] was an excellent example of an extremely fast fail. Clearly, inarguably, shooting at 100 percent of your maximum speed at an IDPA competition puts you on a hiding to nowhere (with nowhere to hide). The trick to avoid amphetaminitis: feeling that you’re going too fast. Controlling the urge to light ’em up—especially when the adrenalin’s flowing. Here’s a clue: completely blowing a stage is God’s way of telling you to slow the f down.

Brandon made sure we understood the psychological implications of shooting at 80 percent rather than going, how do I put this delicately? Balls out. “If you slow down and maintain your best accuracy you’ll score more points than if you’re shooting fast, missing zeros or hitting no-shoots. You’ll keep yourself from falling off a psychological cliff, getting into that vicious cycle of failure where you never recover. Remember: it’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.”

Easy for him to say . . .

2. IDPA Champions are not like you and me

The chances of your average gun guy becoming as fast and capable an IDPA competitor as Brandon Wright are only somewhat higher than the odds that I’ll have six-pack abs before I turn 55. Which is to say it’s not impossible—just ridiculously improbable. At least not without a single-minded commitment to the goal and monumental amounts of work. Even then . . . nah. Not seeing it.

IDPA 2.0 class at ITI (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

Literally. As our older readers will attest, when your eyes go you’re screwed. And go they do. Some of my classmates were lasik surgery survivors. Some wore special glasses. All were gentlemen of a certain age coping with the optical degradation that Father Time inflicts on all God’s creatures. Brandon? Brandon is a young man genetically engineered for IDPA. He has the visual acuity, height, health, coordination, yada, yada, yada. He’s a walking, well, running reminder that an IDPA competitor’s gotta know his limitations.

In other words, if you’re shooting IDPA and you remember the first Wrestlemania (or can’t see your wedding tackle when standing up), guess what? You’re doing it (IDPA) for fun. Mind you, if you follow ITI’s IDPA Instructor’s advice, if you practice gun handling skills in the privacy of your home for 30 minutes a day, getting that sight picture in less time than it takes to cycle a round, you’ll suck less than the average IDPA competitor. Depending on whether or not her read this article. And your class level. And what gun you’re using . . .

3. Don’t compete in IDPA with a Caracal C

Well of course you wouldn’t. Only an idiot would bring a compact gun with a tiny sight radius and a [relatively] mushy trigger to an IDPA match, practice or instruction. If you’re shooting 9mm (not .9mm) you’re gonna need a big ass Smith & Wesson M&P with a comfy grip, appropriate sights and a competition trigger job (with pre-travel adjustment). Or similar. Not a race gun or a carry gun. A reliable, full-sized competition-compatible firearm. Like the one this classmate used to get into the swing of things . . .

“Once you find a gun that works for you, don’t obsess about it,” Brandon advises. “Don’t constantly tinker with your set-up. I see people going crazy about the smallest technical details, trying to shave hundredths of a second off their time . . . The best way to improve your score is to slow down and shoot your own match.”

Lucky for your humble(d) correspondent a classmate lent me a Glock 19 with a Ghost trigger. After ditching the UAE’s modern masterpiece, assuming control of one of Gaston’s gregarious gats and willing myself to aim the damn thing, I finally put Brandon’s advice to good use. I performed to the point where I felt comfortable enough to hang around for the final debrief and score revelation. I didn’t. But I could have. In theory.

And that’s how I spent my one-day vacation from TTAG: learning to slow down and aim using something useful. Whether you’re a rank amateur or an IDPA Grand Poobah, I recommend ITI’s instruciton without hesitation. It’s basic stuff, but there’s nothing quite like studying at the feet (and behind the firing line) of a master. Someone who knows how to play the game. To wit:

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    • True a game, yet a game that can hone your pistol handling skills while enjoying recreation.

  1. Bottom line: Did it shake your faith in the Caracal?
    There isn’t any IDPA in my area (or within 500 miles of my area) so I haven’t tried it yet. That said I’m wondering about lesson #3. Are you suggesting getting a high score is more important than using it as a training exercise for your EDC, or are you thinking about switching to a G19 for your EDC? I’m wondering if it’s best to think of it as a game to try and win or a metric to test skills with, I supposed I’d have to play myself to find out.

    • My $0.02: it can be a game and a metric, but should probably not be both at the same time. Start a match playing for score or to practice your EDC skills, but trying to blend them can skew some of your priorities.

  2. I enjoyed this article. I shot my first IDPA about a week ago with a revolver. I learned quite a bit. I’m not even considering becoming a competitor. To me it’s a great opportunity to work on shooting on the move, multiple targets, and other things my range won’t tolerate.

    I wish IDPA would outlaw the tacti-cool vests, though. Does anyone really wear those in public anymore?

    • I have a coworker that’s worn one for the past three years, he’d not a photog and doesn’t carry (at least didn’t admit it to me). Just an OFWG that likes pockets.

    • re “taci-cool vests”

      I don’t see them as any kind of cool, but I do wear one in IDPA. They are light weight, short sleeve, cheap, easy to brush aside for a quick draw, and easy to wad up in the range bag, etc. So they work better for me than a jacket especially when it’s fairly warm.

  3. This sounds like the “Practical Pistol” I used to shoot over here, taken a step or three more tactical?

    I miss shooting. I especially miss shooting Practical on Wednesdays, where I discovered similar lessons; first you shoot safe, then you shoot accurate, *then* you work on your speed and start taking seconds off your time. You can’t miss fast enough to get a decent score, and getting DQ’d is at best embarrassing and at worst will end your hobby if you drop a big enough bollock that you’re no longer welcomed.

    I was never DQ’d, managed to get reasonably accurate, and my times were never brilliant but were at least going in the right direction… and then the ban came down and I had to hand my long-suffering Glock 21 (never let me down, never failed even fed with my indifferent handloads, shot far better than I could hold it) over for destruction. Bah humbug.

    On the other hand, sounds like RF had a damn good day out and was kind enough to share it with us.

  4. To call IDPA just a game is misleading. It may be that to a serious competitor, but to most shooters and handgun owners, it’s a golden opportunity to get and keep valuable defensive shooting skills. I apply the 80/20 rule here: skilled shooters are the top 20% of gun owners and skilled IDPA shooters are the top 20% of shooters when it comes to defensive shooting.

    Another way of saying it, even if you classify only as a marksman in IDPA, you’re head and shoulders above most folks owning a handgun for self defense. And you have greatly improved your chances of survival in a real world situation.

    Oh, and you don’t have wear a shoot-me-first vest for concealment. With some exceptions, however you hide your piece works in IDPA. So do most carry guns in 9mm and up. Sure, it can be a game for a pure competitor, but it also translates well to every day carry.

  5. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast…

    Welcome to the club, Chief – I think someone who can finish six stages at IDPA can rest assured they are among the top 10 percent of all pistol shooters.

  6. IDPA is ok for beginner shooters because it’s shoot by the numbers(no thinking required for stage planning) and requires less gear, usually what is included in a M&P/XD’s “range kit” guns.

    IDPA is NOT training in anyway. It’s a sport devoid of true tactical consideration. It’s also one of two big practical pistol games. What you will find is that only a handful of truly top level shooters even shoot IDPA and continue to. USPSA has a much deeper talent pool, despite have a slightly smaller memebership base. This, combined with the fact that some shooters,like Turan Butler dont shoot IDPA anymore have a reason for this.

    Also: slow cannot be fast. A 1.8 reload that nickes the magwell on the way in is still faster then a perfect reload done in 2.0.

  7. It is a game and if you think it is anything but that you are a fool. Their rules are incredibly stupid and will get you in trouble if you practice them in real life.
    But it is fun.

  8. Ralph, this is the second article that I have had the pleasure of reading today. It is also the second comment that I’ve read that sounds like you have a personal vendetta with the IDPA. What gives?

  9. Frank Proctor is a master class practical shooter and a former green beret and infantry soldier with combat experience and he pretty much says the whole” gamer stuff will get you killed” is myth ,it dosn’t replace tactical/defensive training but it does refine your shooting and weapon manipulation . I just watched his dvds and the guy is insanely fast and accurate , his gamer stuff seems to work.

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